News / Asia

Pakistan Governor’s Assassination Underscores Societal Chasm

Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, center, surrounded by officials and members of his government, offers a prayer during the funeral procession of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer in Lahore, Pakistan, 05 Jan 2011.
Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, center, surrounded by officials and members of his government, offers a prayer during the funeral procession of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer in Lahore, Pakistan, 05 Jan 2011.

Multimedia

Audio

The killing of the governor of Pakistan's most populous province has highlighted the ongoing clash in Pakistani society between secularism and religious radicalism.  Some of that radicalism is fueled by resentment against a privileged and often secular-minded elite who govern the country.

Severe polarization

The death of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, allegedly at the hands of one of his own bodyguards, has underscored what journalist Ahmad Rashid called a “very, very severe polarization” in Pakistan.

Governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer speaks to the media in Islamabad (File Photo - 28 Mar 2009)
Governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer speaks to the media in Islamabad (File Photo - 28 Mar 2009)

On one side, say analysts, is what is believed to be a comparatively small but vocal and determined group of Islamic radicals, some of them extreme to the point of violence.  At the other is a liberal and, to varying degrees, secular elite. And caught in the middle is the average Pakistani who is buffeted by economic and political uncertainty.

Analyst Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation says Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, envisioned a multiethnic, multireligious society with Islam as a unifying force.  But she says events have caused the country to drift further towards extremism.

"It’s been events over the past 30 years, like the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Islamization policies of General Zia ul-Haq during the 1980s, which has really strengthened the Islamist forces and the more puritanical sects in Pakistan over the more traditional and moderate Sunni sects," said Curtis.

That strength has not translated into popular votes.  When Pakistan has had free and fair elections, the religious parties have fared poorly, picking up only a sliver of seats.  But analysts say their power is in the street, not in the ballot box.

Political power in Pakistan has usually rested with an educated, liberal, and often wealthy elite - at least when the country was not under military rule. With his push to roll back the country’s blasphemy laws, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer epitomized what radicals view as an alarming secular drift in Pakistan.  Kamran Bokhari of the private intelligence firm, Stratfor, says radicals try to capitalize on that resentment against the governing class, as well as deepening economic woes, as a recruiting tool.

Protests in Multan, Pakistan, over the murder of Pakistan's Punjab province's governor Salman Taseer, 05 Jan 2011.
Protests in Multan, Pakistan, over the murder of Pakistan's Punjab province's governor Salman Taseer, 05 Jan 2011.



"Islamist militancy is able to nurture in this country because of that sentiment, because of that idea, this notion that somehow the ruling elite is going to tamper with religion as they know it and is working with the West to do that," said Bokhari.  "So this perception can drive a lot of people. And I can understand the motivation of this individual [the assassin]."

Roots of resentment

But, expressing her own views, Professor Hayat Alvi of the U.S. Naval War College says Pakistanis’ resentment of the government is not over religion, but over the basic issues of daily survival.

"When we had the floods in Pakistan, the devastating floods, a few months ago, it wasn’t religion that the poor were complaining about and secular government ruling them," said Alvi.  "It was that they didn’t get any relief from government emergency forces to give them food, water, and the basic necessities as victims of a major natural disaster.  So at the end of the day, it’s bread, the issue of bread and butter and basic necessities."

Analysts say extremists have penetrated some elements of the government, especially the security agencies.  Some officers of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate have been accused by officials of several governments of backing the Afghan Taliban and anti-Indian extremist groups.

Government's attitute

The alleged killer of Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, being brought to a court in Islamabad, Pakistan, 05 Jan 2011.
The alleged killer of Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, being brought to a court in Islamabad, Pakistan, 05 Jan 2011.

Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation says the government sends mixed signals when some radical groups are allowed to operate unmolested by security forces.

"Unfortunately, when you have confusion at the official level in terms of groups that are conducting terrorist attacks in India - for example, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is allowed to function in society - and are not prosecuted, when the government is not cracking down on these extremist groups, unfortunately, I think, it emboldens the groups and it sends a signal that they’re beyond punishment or they’re beyond the law," said Curtis.

Questions have already been raised in the Taseer killing.  The alleged assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, said he killed the governor because he was a “blasphemer.”  There is as yet no evidence of a wider conspiracy, but analysts have pointed out that Qadri was able to enlist in the Elite Force of the Punjab police and join the governor’s protection squad despite reported warnings about his extreme religious views.  Pakistani officials say Qadri pumped more than 20 bullets into the governor.  No members of the security detail returned fire.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid